William Hsu, employee of the San Franciscan bicycle shop My Dutch Bike that imports and retails handmade Dutch bicycles, recently visited Amsterdam and spent time at Henry Cutler's Workcycles to 'not only learn a bit more about the mechanics of drum/roller brakes, internally geared hubs and generator lights, but also just to absorb the culture in Holland.'
I met William (and his girlfriend) one day when I joined the crew for lunch. I think he was surprised I had heard of My Dutch Bike before ;). Time was too short to really get to know him, of course, but it was good to find his blog posts and pictures on the internets. He continues:
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="A Pashley bread(cheese) bike parked out as decoration in front of a cheese shop."][/caption]What I found in Amsterdam is that bicycles arenâ€™t really thought of as a â€œcultureâ€ or a â€œmeans of transportation,â€ but rather just a way of life. Bicycles are incorporated in everything. From the way they get around town, just going down the street, carrying groceries or children or even as a front of the shop display, bicycles are present.
If you are taking the time to read this, you most likely are fond of bicycling or fond of the idea of bicycling. All socio-economic groups in Amsterdam ride bicycles and it works out due to the lay of their land. The terrain is flat, the streets are narrow and there are dedicated bicycle lanes almost on every street. It is the perfect setting for bicycles to be a quick way of getting around and the perfect setting for not allowing automobiles to do so. Most of the United States does not offer this type of urban environment, but I believe that a bicycle lifestyle should still be promoted for health and convenience reasons, but most of all â€“ itâ€™s just fun!
I can't say I have anything to add, other than that the 'flatness' argument is over-used. Not as many (and all cross-sections of) people would ride when it hadn't been made safe on all levels, which I think is the most important factor.
Then, on a 'typical' Monday morning:
I took the following video while standing at the corner of Marnixstraat and Elandsgracht on my way to Workcycles. Observe how fluid the bicycle traffic is in Holland, note that none of them ever really come to a complete stop where they have to put their foot down. They tend to yield, let the other pass and then pedal on. I feel like like Dutch bicycle riders are probably some of the most skilled riders in the world just being able to maintain such an overall fluid bicycle system with such high bicycle traffic density.
I enjoy reading and seeing how people experience and appreciate the 'mundane' stuff 99,99% of us Dutchies take for granted. After all, the remaining 0,01% can yap, write and publish all they want, people won't get it until they get here and see for themselves.
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